COP 28 – failure or success?



With the world shaken by an intercapitalist war, the ecological crisis continues, deeply, slowly and inexorably, to undermine capitalism through growing waves of climate catastrophe.


As expected, the COP 28 final document did not explicitly mention the end of fossil fuels, despite the strong appeal of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, showing the urgency to end fossil fuels that threaten life on Earth. The Final Declaration of the Conference ignores the recommendation of the International Energy Agency, that is, a 95% reduction in fossil energy by 2050.

Under strong pressure from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the final document of COP 28, recently concluded in Dubai, does not contain the terms “elimination” or “gradual reduction” of fossil fuels. The focus was on the “transition” away from fossil fuels, without clarifying what countries should do to gradually abandon fossil fuels.

The big advance was in language: for the first time, the idea of ​​restricting fossil fuels appears wrapped with the generic expression of transition and prioritizing the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without association with the elimination or gradual reduction of fuels fossil fuels, responsible for 75% of the gases causing the climate crisis. And, as it is not binding, the agreement negotiated in Dubai has the same weakness as previous agreements: it depends on the goodwill of national states.

The European press, in general, had a positive assessment. For example, Thibaud Voïta, researcher at the Center for Energy and Climate at the French Institute of International Relations, stated that the agreement constitutes a very strong signal for the world to move away from fossil energies. It highlights the proposal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 (Le Monde, 13/12/2023). Already the The Guardian, on the same date, when highlighting that the president of the Conference praises the historic package to accelerate climate action, states that critics regret the “litany of gaps” in the final text.

On the other hand, Marcio Astrini, Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory, considers “this COP28 result to be strong in signs, but weak in substance”. And Camila Jardim, from Greenpeace Brazil, highlights that the real gain of COP28 was to place fossil fuels at the center of the debate, a responsibility that none of the 27 previous climate conferences had assumed (UOL, 13/12/2023).

The previous proposal for the Conference's final text received strong criticism from European countries, Brazil and, mainly, small island countries, threatened with disappearance. “It is clearly insufficient and disappointing,” said European Union Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra. The most scathing criticism came from Minister John Silk of the Marshall Islands, one of the nations most threatened by rising sea levels due to global warming: “We did not come here to sign our death guarantee. We came here to fight for the 1,5ºC limit and there is only one way to achieve this goal: by eliminating fossil fuels.”

In search of a difficult compromise between the parties most willing to discuss the long-term phase-out of fossil fuels (the European Union, representatives of small islands, many Latin American countries) and the fossil-producing countries, an expression was found for escape the terms “output” (phase out) or reduction (phase down) of fossil fuels, considered unacceptable by OPEC. Lexical juggling invented a formula that ended up being accepted, “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems", that is, a transition away from fossil energies in energy systems, without specifying the date.

At the beginning of COP-28 in Dubai, the creation of a voluntary Loss and Damage Fund was announced, amounting to US$420 million annually, to help poor countries adapt to the new climate, and compensate for climate damage. This represents just 2% of what scientists consider necessary. We are far from the decision of a 100 billion dollar annual Fund approved by COP 21 in Paris, in 2015, to limit global warming to 1,5º C.


Brazil had a strong participation in COP28. In addition to Lula, seven ministers were in Dubai. The Brazilian delegation had more than 1.300 participants, the largest among all countries. Minister Marina Silva launched the proposal for a Fund called Tropical Forests Forever, for developed countries to compensate countries that preserve their tropical forests.

The Minister of Mines and Energy scored an own goal. Ignoring Brazil's enormous renewable natural resources, it supported the invitation to join OPEC+. He also openly supports oil exploration near Foz do Amazonas. Next, the global network of environmental NGOs Climate Action Network (CAN) awarded Brazil the “Fossil of the Day” award on December 4, warning that GHG emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), are responsible for warming the Earth and climate events extremes, such as excessive heat, prolonged droughts and floods.

Brazil's trump card for COP 28 was the forestry agenda, the reduction in deforestation in the Amazon, despite the increase in deforestation in the Cerrado. If we only consider the period of the new Lula Government, deforestation in the Amazon region fell 42% from January to July 2023, compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Ministry of the Environment.

When it comes to fossil fuels, however, Brazil's position is, to say the least, ambiguous. After the Minister of Mines and Energy proposed Brazil's entry into OPEC+, and considered Brazil an oil country, many observers stated that Brazil lost the possibility of global leadership in the fight against climate change, despite the efforts of the group of “It’s not quite like that.”

While Colombia decided to join the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (Sheet, 2/12/2023), Brazil announces membership of OPEC+ and hopes to be one of the largest oil producers in the world, against the grain of the energy transition. In reality, until now Brazil has refused to phase out oil, gas, coal and has not eliminated fossil fuel subsidies. And, the day after the end of COP28, the Brazilian Government held an auction in Rio de Janeiro more than 600 oil and gas wells, many in areas close to environmentally and socially sensitive locations.

Furthermore, deforestation is Brazil's major contribution to global warming, while in other countries the villain is the use of fossil fuels. In recent years, we have had violent conflicts on the agricultural frontier. Data from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) show that between 1985 and 2021, 1.536 murder crimes were recorded resulting in 2.028 deaths, with around 90% of these murder cases not having any type of trial.

Violence against indigenous people, peasants, quilombolas, landless workers, environmentalists and human rights defenders is the other face of the neo-extractivism of agribusiness, extensive livestock farming, mining, logging, which deforest the forest, degrade the land for export, without adding value, and release GHGs previously stored in the forest into the atmosphere.


Projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that global demand for fossil fuels is expected to fall from 2028 onwards, as well as the price of a barrel due to the energy transition towards renewable sources. If current emissions standards were maintained, the costs to the global economy would be US$178 trillion between 2021 and 2070. The human costs would be even greater, with increased food insecurity, water shortages, mass migrations and worsening environmental conditions. health and well-being, especially for the poorest populations.

Recent Oxfam reports, published in the British newspaper The Guardian, report that the richest 1% of the world's population burns more carbon than the poorest 66%, while multi-billionaires consume each the equivalent of thousands of times the global average. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry, with the support of the media, has managed to criminalize environmental protest in many parts of the world, including the UK, where environmental protests can now lead to long prison sentences, demonizing peaceful protesters as extremists and terrorists.

According to the latest projections from the Global Carbon Budget, global CO emissions2 linked to the production and consumption of fossil fuels show an increase of 1,1% compared to 2022, and this total still exceeds 2019 levels. Emissions produced by coal are expected to increase by 1,1. %, those from oil should increase by 1,5% and those related to natural gas will increase by 0,5%. Although the planet is already overheated and the trajectories of National States lead the world towards a warming of almost 3°C, the decisions at COP 28 were very timid in terms of fossil fuels. The United Nations Environment Program report, published on November 20, recommended reducing GHG emissions by 42% in 2030 to contain warming to +1,5°C.

COP28 had a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists. Survey of NGOs shows 2.456 names, three times more than in 2022. The number is a record in the history of the Conference, according to data from the Corporate Accountability, with the coalition Kick Big Polluters Out. According to data from these organizations, published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul on 5/12/2023, fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber many country delegations at COP 28. Brazil's delegation – the biggest of COP28 with 1.337 accredited people – there were 54 lobbyists linked to the fossil sector.

According to economist Thomas Piketty to the newspaper, The Guardian, issues of social and economic class must be at the heart of our response to the climate crisis, to tackle the huge inequalities between the carbon footprint of the rich and the poor and avoid a backlash against climate policies. An alarming example is the case of Brazil, where half of all growth goes to the richest 5% (Marcelo Medeiros, The rich and the poor – Brazil and inequality, IPEA). Thomas Piketty suggests a progressive carbon tax so that the most polluting activities would be subject to “huge taxation”. “Unfortunately, time is up.” Fifteen thousand scientists, from 161 countries, signed a report warning of environmental collapse. Published in the academic journal BioScience, the report states that “life on planet Earth is under siege as we continue to move increasingly quickly towards environmental collapse” (One Planet, 1/11/2023). The year 2023 is already considered the hottest in history by the European Copernicus observatory. As long as GHG concentrations continue to rise, temperatures will continue to rise, as will heat waves, droughts and floods.

But dependence on fossil fuel continues, despite all the scientific denunciations annually released by the UN climate body, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). A study on 20 fossil-producing countries, including Brazil, projects a production of 460% more coal, 82% more gas and 29% more oil than the limits stipulated to contain global warming. According to Inger Andersen, director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the “expansion of fossil fuels is undermining the energy transition necessary to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions and putting the future of humanity at risk” (IPS, 9/11/2023).


The COPs have so far produced disappointing results. And the National States sign, but do not always fulfill the commitments made, called NDC (Nationally Determined Commitments). COP 28 was held in the United Arab Emirates, an oil country. COP 29 will be in Azerbaijan, a country that has 75% of its economy based on the production of fossil fuels. Therefore, many people are pinning their hopes on COP 30, to be held in 2025 in Brazil, in the city of Belém. At COP 28, the March of Social Movements gained prominence, calling for a sustainable future and demanding the end of fossil fuels, climate justice and a ceasefire for peace in Palestine. COP 28 is over, but the 1,5º target approved in 2015 at the Paris Conference, COP 21, remains under threat. In addition to GHG emissions, the loss of biodiversity is a dramatic problem: a gigantic process of extinction threatening more than a million known plant and animal species on the planet, with 75% of ecosystems having been altered by human activity. According to many scientists, we are on the way to a mass extinction of species. The bottom line is that the capitalist, energivorous, consumerist and concentrating economic model, which increases GHG emissions, worsens the climate crisis and destroys natural resources essential to the survival of life on the planet, is never questioned at the COPs.

In 2022, feminist academic Nancy Fraser released a book talking about “cannibalistic capitalism” that devours democracy, care and the planet. Previously, Naomi Klein spoke of disaster capitalism (the shock doctrine). Others spoke of late capitalism or senile capitalism, for example. But capitalism, whether cannibal, disaster, late or senile, is today threatened by the ecological crisis that puts the survival of humanity at risk.

With the world shaken by an intercapitalist war, such as the war in Ukraine, and mainly by a genocidal war by Israel against the national liberation of Palestine, the ecological crisis continues, deeply, slowly and inexorably, to undermine capitalism through increasing waves of catastrophe. climate. The consequence is the destruction of natural resources and global warming that threaten the survival of life on Earth.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). []

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